There's a Reuters photo of four Afghan policemen on page A12 of the Washington Post today. It was taken Tuesday afternoon during coordinated Taliban attacks on the U.S. embassy, NATO headquarters and other coalition targets.
Policemen in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq aren't writing parking tickets. They're paramilitary units armed with automatic weapons. They're supposed to be the principal security force to defend against terrorist attacks both major and minor in areas that are already "secured." The four in the picture are armed with AK-47's, one perhaps with a heavier weapon which is partially obscured by the men in front of it. It's resting on the ground on a bipod. And resting is the operative word.
Though the four are apparently not under fire -- if they were, they'd be deader than Julius Caesar -- their deployed positions tell us a lot about them and their training.
From left to right, the first man is cowering behind a tree. His weapon is pointed at the ground and his whole face is screwed tightly into an "owwwwie, this gunfire is really loud" expression. The second man is leaning on his weapon which is serving as his leaning post, muzzle into the ground and buttplate being where his hands -- one atop the other are resting. He, too, is in a semi-crouch, wincing at the noise emanating from behind him.
The source of the noise is the third man who -- according to the picture's caption -- is "…firing toward a building taken over by insurgents during the attack in Kabul's heavily fortified embassy district." "Toward" is right. The man's face is five or six inches above the weapon's stock which, by the laws of geometry and physics, put his line of sight that much above the front and rear sights of the weapon. He's doing what our spec ops guys call the "spray and pray" method. Unless you aim your fire -- which, perforce, this clown isn't doing -- the odds of hitting the bad guys are about the same as hitting the lottery. It works for John Rambo, but not for real men in real gunfights.
The fourth man, the machine gunner, is looking down at his weapon. Whether he's clearing a jam or drinking a cappuccino isn't clear. What is clear is that he's not down in firing position behind his weapon where he belongs.
It may be unfair to generalize the state of Afghanistan's security forces now on the basis of these four bozos. But, then again, it may not be.
Is this the face of nation-building? I believe it is. And it's just one more bit of proof that the house of cards we've built will come crashing down faster than even skeptics can imagine.